Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Books Read May 2020: 108-135

Pictured: May's 5-star reads

108. Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
109. Written in Black by K.H. Lim ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Kindle eBook; my review)
110. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library book; my review)
111. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
112. Raised in Ruins by Tara Neilson ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
113. Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
114. On Lighthouses by Jazmine Barrera, translated by Christine MacSweeney ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
115. Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (ARC from publisher; my review)
116. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
117. Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
118. Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
119. The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
120. My Part of Her by Javad Djavahery, translated by Emma Ramadan ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
121. Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy eBook; my review)
122. Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
123. And Then They Stopped Talking to Me by Judith Warner ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
124. Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (ARC from publisher; my review)
125. Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono, translated by Angus Turvill ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
126. If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
127. Silence of the Chagos by Shenaz Patel, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
128. The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
129. The Story Prize ed. Larry Dark ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (ARC from publisher; my review)
130. Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
131. The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
132. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
133. Walking the Nile by Levison Wood ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
134. Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong, translated by Natascha Bruce ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
135. They Say Sarah by Pauline Delabroy-Allard, translated by Adriana Hunter ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)

Books Read: 28

Audiobook: 0
eBook: 17
Print: 11

Library book: 4
Review copy: 15
Personal copy: 9

Booker Prize: 1
Fantasy: 1
Middle East 2020: 2
ReadtheWorld21 (May focus: Asia and Pacific Islands): 6
Science fiction: 1
Short Stories: 3
Translated: 8

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I was going to work on my May books read post tonight but I am going to follow the lead of other bookish people and use my space to bring more attention to black voices.  And as much as I love Octavia and James I'll be focusing on living voices so that you can go out and buy their books! The links here do not pay me anything, I'm trying to link to original publishers or authors as much as possible.

I love the the Breakbeat Poets collections from Haymarket Press so much. Most of them feature black poets but my two favorites are Volume 2 - Black Girl Magic, featuring black female poets across the diaspora, and Volume 3 - Halal if You Hear Me, is one co-edited by Safia Elhillo and Fatimah Asghar. All the poets included are Muslim, so of course some of them are black.

Nicole Dennis-Benn was born and raised in Jamaica, and I just saw her in conversation with Roxane Gay last night. Her first novel, Here Comes the Sun, goes deep into the lives of three generations of women in a family, one who is a lesbian deep in the closet because of the danger of being out at that time. Patsy is the story of a woman who leaves her daughter in Jamaica to try to make a better life for them in New York, and it doesn't go well. It is heartbreaking but shows a side not always seen, about motherhood, about the immigrant experience.

Jesmyn Ward is best known for her fiction, specifically Salvage the Bones and Sing Unburied Sing, both of which won the National Book Award.

Her non-fiction includes The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, which she edited and is in homage to James Baldwin and a reflection of this era. The root to most of her writing seems to be her own life, some of which is revealed in Men We Reaped, chronicling five black men she lost who were close to her. It is heartbreaking but not unique.

I'm going to mention one more poet because to me there is nothing like poetry to bring you into another person's experience. Danez Smith is a powerful voice; I can't believe I have not yet read Homie, their newest collection, but Don't Call Us Dead is powerful, and just look them up in YouTube to experience poems such as Dear White America, or various poetry publications to read others, for instance not an elegy for Mike Brown

Memoirs from Roxane Gay, Mychal Denzel Smith, Ta Nehisi Coates, Kiese Laymon, novels from Brandon Taylor, Brit Bennett... I am only scratching the surface but if you are frozen, if you want to do something but don't know what, if you have not at least given time and space in your library bag or your bookshelves for black voices, here is one place to start.


Reading Envy 191: Stealthy Yet Sparkly with Gail Carriger

Author Gail Carriger sits down with me at the Reading Envy Pub, and we discuss her voracious reading habits, and topics in books ranging from little squiddies to magical chocolate pots. Ms. Carriger must have a happy ending, and Jenny is content with fragmentary reads.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 191: Stealthy Yet Sparkly

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Books discussed:


The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
On Lighthouses by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan

Other mentions:

Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger
Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger
Meat Cute by Gail Carriger
Soulless by Gail Carriger
The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs
Wolfsong by TJ Klune
Court of Fives by Kate Elliot
LitHub The 50 Best Contemporary Novels under 200 Pages
The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish
My Enemy the Queen by Victoria Holt
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Grace Draven
Taji Beyond the Rings by R. Cooper
The 5th Gender by G.L. Carriger
Earth Fathers are Weird by Lyn Gala
White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

Related episodes:

Episode 015 - The Time for Exclaiming Over Costumes with Jean and Karen
Episode 060 - A Good Era for Communists with Rose Davis
Episode 187 - Sentient Snails and Spaceships with Paula

Stalk us online:

Gail Carriger website (includes more social media links)
Gail Carriger on Twitter
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Review: Walking the Nile

Walking the Nile Walking the Nile by Levison Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Levison Woods *almost* walked the whole Nile but had to skip most of South Sudan due to what feels like civil war eternal. No explorer has made it completely through and most don't make it through Al-Sudd, pictured in the background. He started at one (contested) origin of the White Nile, in Rwanda.

There are a few mentions of British people "discovering" parts of the region even though he mocks the "discovery" of the Rosetta Stone later in the book. He does have respect for the communities he passes through but understandably, he is treated with a wary surveillance, with frequent stallings due to bureaucracy. He can plan for some situations but loses a travel companion to heat stroke. It's not a region I will likely ever visit myself so I took my time and looked up more on the internet as I went.

I did watch the BBC miniseries that goes with this but it's better to read the book first to have more of the detail for parts they skip, and context they don't provide.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review: Catherine House

Catherine House Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the perfect book for my reading mood - a spin on a campus novel where the institution known as Catherine House manages to be elite but also questionable, cutting off the outside world (and all technology) from the students for three years. It is moody and features a MC with a past, a mysterious layer of secret deeds, an external legacy, and art!

I think all the pieces are here and the fragmentation in how the novel is told aligns with Ines and how she experiences the world, but it did create a bit of a barrier between her story and what I get as the reader. Still, I ate it up in two evenings.

I had a copy from the publisher from NetGalley; it came out May 12. While we are all cut off from the outside world, we might as well connect to Catherine House.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Review: The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction

The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction by Larry Dark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm trying to get to some of my books of short stories by reading one almost every morning, so I'll keep track here.

This collection features the winning story from the last 15 years of The Story Prize, from Edwidge Danticat to Elizabeth Strout. I'd read four of these stories in their own collections already, but really enjoyed every story in this book for different reasons.

"The Book of Miracles" by Edwidge Danticat
Phew, heavier when you realize how much the mother is carrying and can't share. I've always meant to read more by this author.

"The Postman's Cottage" by Patrick O'Keeffe
The village, the people, the story all reminded me of Reservoir 13.

"My Podiatrist Tells Me a Story About a Boy and a Dog" by Mary Gordon
Stories inside a story about how we build friendships through stories.

"The Zero Meter Diving Team" by Jim Shepard
"...Reason was the ability to use the powers of the surrounding world without ruining that world."
Another Chernobyl story but well-told from the perspective of an oldest brother in Pripyat.

"Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff
Well the narrator just makes me think of the author really.

"Saleema" by Daniyal Mueenuddin
A woman in Pakistan tries to find connection in her limited life situations. Not cheery!

"Memory Wall" by Anthony Doerr (from Memory Wall)
The title story of that collection, about a woman who records memories and organizes them on a wall. Yep!

"Snowmen" by Steven Millhauser (from We Others)
Gorgeous writing about snowmen that come to life.

"Ghosts, Cowboys" by Claire Vaye Watkins
I had no idea that the author was the daughter of one of Charles Manson's crew, and this is a story about that, kind of. It's also about how stories are told, who they impact, and the setting is interesting. Some of the gory details are not for the weak!

"Tenth of December" by George Saunders (from Tenth of December)
This is my third time reading this story and I can only hear it in the author's voice. I don't want to spoil it but it starts with a boy taking a walk.

"Something Amazing" by Elizabeth McCracken
Is any child safe in this neighborhood?

"Nirvana" by Adam Johnson (from Fortune Smiles)
Holograms of people to get through tough times.. I remember this one from when I first read it years ago!

"How She Remembers It" by Rick Bass
A story about a daughter and her father on a trip to Yellowstone, but the entire time you feel a foreboding... about change, about aging, about memory.

"The Sign" Elizabeth Strout
An aging man in a rural area visits a neighbor and it brings up past grievances. Strout writes so much like Kent Haruf at times - very character focused writing, with such attention to detail.

The publisher sent me a copy of this more than a year ago; my apologies for the delay but I finally read it!
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